The Paramount Returns in Full Stride with Kinky Boots

Michael Wordly (left) plays Lola and Devin DeSantis is Charlie in Kinky Boots, running now through October 17, 2021 at Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora, IL. For tickets and information, visit ParamountAurora.com, or call the Paramount box office, (630) 896-6666. Credit: Liz Lauren.

This weekend, the Paramount’s production of Kinky Boots opened for review revealing that the Covid-19 hiatus has done nothing to diminish the quality of the offerings in Aurora, IL. It is the perfect, joyful start to a season of live theatre in the pandemic.

NOTE: Everyone in the audience is required to show proof of vaccination and remain masked throughout the production to keep themselves, their neighbors, and the theatre staff safe.  In my opinion, that should be a requirement everywhere, not just Illinois, where indoor mask mandates have been completely reinstated as of this week.  It’s a mark of respect for the people who are entertaining us to do what we can as audience members to keep them safe.  No singer, dancer or actor wants to risk a lung infection with potential long-term effects and they shouldn’t have to.

Devin DeSantis is Charlie

This current Kinky Boots production is simply exceptional, with Devin DeSantis (Charlie) and Michael Wordly (Lola) heading an immensely talented cast full of actors who have appeared as leads on stages all over Chicagoland (and the U.S.). It is also the only production of this play I’ve ever seen where Lola doesn’t absolutely render Charlie a non-entity.  It’s easy to do because Lola as a character is so fun and splashy and takes up so much space, and often appears with her Angels in tow, ramping up the fun and splashiness even more.  It’s easy to run over Charlie’s quieter story with a stampede of heels, sequins and dancing. That doesn’t happen here with DeSantis in the role and it makes the play even better because you aren’t just sitting around waiting until Lola’s next appearance.

Michael Wordly plays Lola

That said, Wordly is everything you could want in a Lola, funny, touching and vulnerable by turns, this is a heavy lifting acting part as much as a singing one, and he’s up to every second of it.

As the play is based around both characters’ issues with living up to their fathers’ expectations and then daring to forge their own paths in life, having two great actors and singers in these roles that are absolutely a match for each other in power and presence makes the entire thing a delight.  It doesn’t matter whose story we’re seeing at the moment.  You care about everyone and everything.  It seems more a joyful collaboration than competing storylines.

Breakthrough at the factory.

Every single major number here is incredibly well-thought-out and performed with absolute gusto by the actor/singer in the role. It seems everyone is glad to be back and is putting their whole hearts into their performances.  And with a heartfelt musical like Kinky Boots, it serves the story exceptionally well.

Strutting in Milan

There are a couple of wobbles beginning with Neil Friedman as Mr. Price in the opening scene.  When he appeared, I thought they had moved the production to the United States as he didn’t even attempt a British accent, let alone a regional one. But his powerful voice and warm presence make you not mind so much.  Everyone else in the cast manages fine.  The other major one is the micing of the young actors playing Young Charlie and Young Lola.  Children’s voices are different and in some cases they are hard to hear, especially in parts where other people are singing as well.  The kids are great, but the sound could be improved.  After that opening bit, however, the production settles down and is just a delight every second as every named character and many of the chorus make their marks with gusto in everything they do.

The cast of Kinky Boots.

There is a very, very strong female supporting cast as well led by Emilie Lynn (Nicola) who you love to hate, Sara Reinecke (Lauren), who does a great job showing how much of a vocal Mary Sue for Cyndi Lauper her character actually is while being completely adorable, and Christina Hall (Trish) whipping the factory workers into shape and telling off her boss when he goes too far.  Other notable supporting roles are beautifully handled by Mark David Kaplan as long-suffering factory manager George and the fabulous one-scene wonder that is Barry DeBois as Harry (who recently headlined Once at Paramount in 2018) and who you wish had far more to do.  His duet with Charlie is as good as the one by Charlie and Lola later on. Which also speaks well to how great DeSantis is at singing with others, he’s a great harmony singer, not just a lead singer, as those duets just slap.  And Mark Lancaster as Don is also fabulous, carrying the other major character arc in the show with great believability. (See them in  action here and here)

Lola and her Angels

And let’s not forget Lola’s Angels. Led by Dance Captain Anthony Avino, the Angels are Terrell Armstrong, Matthew Bettencourt, Christopher John Kelley, Anthony Sullivan Jr. and J. Tyler Whitmer.  When they are on stage, you are hard-pressed to look at anything or anyone else no matter how important.  And not just due to the absolutely spectacular costumes by Ryan Park, (each time Lola and the Angels appear, you get to see something new and amazing and the working-class wardrobe in the factory is also spot on.) Every one of the Angels can dance like crazy and do.  It’s not just drag strutting, it’s solid and amazing dancing a lot of the time (splits, high kicks, on pointe, etc). And they look like they are having so much fun every single minute, it just amps up the excitement of the entire show.  They are a treat.

Also kudos to whoever blocked the boxing scene.  That was amazing.

Kevin DePinet and Christopher Rhoton’s scenic design is also incredibly well-thought-out with the various aspects of the factory and the sliding windows and shoe stage border all adding dimension to this production. There are even a couple of surprises in the scenic design that I don’t want to spoil because when you see them, you’ll get to appreciate how clever they are and how well they work to move the story.

Honestly, everything about this production is just great.  You should go see it.

Tickets are available at the Paramount box office through October 17.

All photos by Liz Lauren.

About Suzanne Magnuson 89 Articles
Professional writer with 20 plus years of experience. M.A., M.B.A. Travel Editor and Social Media Manager for Splash Magazines Worldwide. Senior Editor. Member of Advertising Team.

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